Coverage of Parliament– as 2-day GPA/ACM workshop concludesThe National Assembly’s proposed draft code of conduct for Journalists who cover matters related to parliamentary sittings is being staunchly opposed by members of the local media fraternity, as consultations proved over the weekend.Some of the participants in the two-day GPA/ACM training programme on coverage of Parliament pose for the cameras on Sunday (Association of Caribbean Media Workers photo)The consultations and media training workshop were facilitated by the Canadian High Commission, the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM), and the Guyana Press Association (GPA) in the parliamentary chambers on April 7 and 8.At one point during the penultimate day of training, the attendees were separated into two groups. While one group was chaired by veteran Journalist and Editor-in-Chief of the Trinidadian newspaper Newsday, Judy Raymond, the other group was chaired by founding ACM President Wesley Gibbings.It was subsequently revealed that the parliamentary chambers were formulating a draft code of conduct, as well as mulling the introduction of accreditation for parliamentary reporters. Subsequent reports from the chairpersons of these sub-meetings showed that the attending media personnel were unanimously against the measure.During her presentation on her group’s discussions, Raymond related that the media personnel were opposed to the draft code on the grounds of its potential to be used punitively. She reported that it was felt that since Journalists were already guided by ethical principles from the profession and workplace, additional codes of practice would be wholly unnecessary.“There was a concern, with regard to both issues, that conditions or penalties might be imposed which could affect individual Journalists, to their detriment and possibly detract from the range and quality of coverage in Parliament,” Raymond reported.Voicing similar views, GPA Executive Royden James reported that his group also felt that such measures should come from the media houses and not the National Assembly. Concerns were also raised about the purported security rationale behind accreditation.Last year, the National Assembly saw two breaches; one where a woman attired as Santa Claus gained access to the chambers during a presentation from Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.In another breach, a spectator began singing “God is watching you”, a line from a famous Nanci Griffith song, during a sitting of the National Assembly late last year. Further, there was a case of undercover Police ranks posing as media operatives and sitting among media personnel…until they were exposed.According to Public Relations Officer of the National Assembly, Yannick December, the need for accreditation of media personnel covering parliamentary matters is made greater by these instances.“What you had there was a miscommunication,” December related, in brief comments on the undercover Police controversy. “They’re supposed to notify us in advance and we would know that these persons would be here.”Far from the media having to be subjected to security measures, former GPA President Dennis Chabrol stressed that it was the media who actually needed protection. Here, cases of the undercover ranks shadowing the media in the National Assembly were cited.Concerns were also raised by Guyana Times Journalist Jarryl Bryan about the National Assembly’s failure to aggressively update documents accessible online, such as its Hansards. The latest Hansard dates from the 71st sitting of the Assembly in November 2017. While noting that hard copies of Hansards can be provided by the library, Assistant Clerk of the National Assembly Deslyn West promised to look into the matter.The two-day media training had started on Saturday, with the aim to improve the media’s knowledge of parliamentary practices and procedures, improve the media’s understanding of its role in an evolving democracy and consider the tenets of journalistic ethics vis-à-vis parliamentary coverage.At the end of the session, media operatives received a certificate of participation.